Risk assessments on construction sites

Risk assessments on construction sites

Neil Munro Health & Safety

Managing health and safety on construction sites can be far more complex than in other workplaces. In factories and offices, you normally have the same teams working together, fulfilling regular duties. In comparison, on a construction site, the site is undergoing a transformation and teams from different trades come together to work alongside one another.

The human interaction between different trades on construction sites can throw up a multitude of hazards. Each trade will present their own health and safety risks and it is important for the overall contractor to manage firstly, each of these individual risks and secondly, how those risks might impact on one another.

How do you manage the risks?

Often, when problems arise on a construction site, they are due to either a lack of education or a lack of communication. The best way to eliminate both these risks is by having a risk assessment. The risk assessment will look at the hazards on site and identify whether they can be eliminated or controlled.

We would recommend having your risk assessment carried out at the very beginning of the project by an independent, qualified team of health and safety experts to ensure problems don’t arise further down the line.

Remember, clients are responsible for various actions as they have been deemed to employ competent contractors. Some overall contractors are excellent but it is always good to bring in a fresh set of eyes to review the safety of a site. This is in part because it is all too easy to become complacent. We have seen cases where contractors have simply referred back to previous projects when carrying out risk assessments – they try to replicate what they did elsewhere and ignore the fact they are now on a different site with different hazards.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) looks for best practice and so do clients. If clients are looking at two contractors and one can demonstrate they follow best practice by having independent site audits and the other company simply audits itself, good clients will go with the first company.

Keeping up with the times

A risk assessment check by independent health and safety experts will also reveal whether contractors are working in line with the latest legislation. Again, we have come across cases where contractors are not technically up to date and have not moved with the times. If this goes unchecked and contractors continue to refer to old legislation this can cause major problems on a site.

For example, if a contractor isn’t working in line with the current health and safety legislation, the HSE could issue the contractor with an Improvement Notice or they could even tell them to stop work altogether with a Prohibition Notice until the problem is rectified. On top of this the HSE Fee for Intervention scheme costs £157 an hour for the amount of time once a breach has been found to when the contractor put things right and a typical letter from the HSE following a visit can cost £1,000.

Some contraventions may lead to court, heavier fines and gaining a reputation of being an unsafe client or contractor could follow as all cases are reported on the HSE website.

We know the furlough scheme introduced by the Government in response to Covid-19 has cost the country a lot and we wouldn’t be surprised if we see more contractors facing even closer scrutiny of their practices as intervention fees are a relatively straightforward way to generate additional funds.

What does a risk assessment by independent experts include?

At Acorn Safety Services we begin our risk assessments by working with the main contractor who manages the site to make sure everything is covered in full. As of this year this includes examining the Covid-19 practices on site.

All safety inspection and audits will be undertaken by fully qualified, experienced health and safety consultants and will include as a minimum the following:

  • General site information review, observations and comments
  • Observations of activities on site
  • Review and validation of site documentation
  • Inspection of welfare facilities
  • Suitability review of site signage
  • Adequacy of first aid facilities
  • Review of site security
  • Suitability of personal protective equipment requirements
  • House keeping observations
  • Presence of trip and fall safety systems
  • Scaffolding suitability
  • General machinery, plants and equipment audits
  • Incident, Injury and Accident Procedures.

The safety inspection and audit will include a full report with evidential photos issued to you within 48 hours. Any immediate health and safety requirements will be advised to the site manager for action immediately.

Why choose Acorn Safety Services?

All our health and safety consultants, as a minimum, must hold Incorporated Membership of the Association for Project Safety (IMaPS) and membership of either IIRSM (International Institute of Risk and Safety Management or IOSH (Institution of Occupational Safety and Health).

All our consultants understand the design process as well as construction and possess relevant professional and educational qualifications. Our team members have worked on projects worth up to £2bn across all sectors, including education, residential, aviation, rail, commercial, retail, healthcare and leisure; with extensive experience in all forms of contract arrangements including PFI, Design & Build and Construction Management.

To get help with Construction Site Risk Assessments contact us today or click here for more information!